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Road crashes cost India 3-5% GDP every year: World Bank

Road crash deaths and injuries are a major but neglected public health challenge that requires concerted effort for effective and sustainable prevention.

Abhishek Tiwari | New Delhi | Updated :

Road crashes in India: Road crash deaths and injuries are a major but neglected public health challenge that requires concerted effort for effective and sustainable prevention.

Worldwide, an estimated 1.3 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Nevertheless, the tragedy behind these figures attracts less mass media attention than other public health issues and less frequent types of tragedy.

As per the World Bank, road crashes cost the Indian economy 3 to 5 percent of GDP each year. Everyone killed, injured, or disabled by a road traffic crash has a network of others, including family and friends, who are deeply affected. While it would be impossible to attach a value to each case of personal loss and suffering and produce a figure that captures the global social cost of road crashes and injuries. Many families are driven deeply into poverty by the loss of breadwinners and the added burden of caring for members disabled by road traffic injuries.

India witnesses maximum road crash deaths…

India ranks first in the number of road crash deaths across the 199 countries reported in the World Road Statistics, followed by China and the United States (US). As per World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2018, India accounts for almost 11 percent of the road crash related deaths in the world.

In the year 2020, 3,66,138 road crashes killed 1,31,714 persons and injured 3,48,279 persons in India. This would translate on an average into 1,003 road crashes and 361 deaths everyday or nearly 42 crashes and 15 deaths every hour in the country, even though, in 2020, road crashes in India decreased by 18.5 percent as compared to 2019.

Male death victims accounted for 92%…

From a young age, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. About three quarters (73%) of all road traffic deaths occur among young males under the age of 25 years, who are almost three times as likely to be killed in a road traffic crash as young females. Moreover, males accounted for 92 percent of the road crash death victims, whereas females accounted for 8 percent only.

National Capital status…

There was an increase of 3.6 percent in fatal crashes in Delhi as compared to 2020. Last year, 4,720 road crashes killed 1,239 people in Delhi and injured 4,273 persons. There was an increase of 13 percent in total crashes. However, the death rate per one lakh population remains the same.

Pedestrian’s most vulnerable victims…

According to the Delhi Road Crash Report launched by the Delhi Police, pedestrians were the most vulnerable victims during the year 2021. Last year, 40.7 percent of the total persons killed in road crashes were pedestrians, followed by the two-wheeler riders, who were the second most vulnerable victims constituting 38.1 percent of the total persons killed.

Disobeying traffic and over-speed major cause…

After proper analysis a set of causes has been considered responsible for the crashes in the country. This includes, disobeying traffic rules, over-speed, taking sharp turns, unguarded civil, poor light condition, no central verge, sharp curve, no road sign, drink and driving, vehicle break down, tyre burst. As per crash report, approx. 73% of road crash deaths happened in Delhi last year were due to disobeying traffic rules and approx. 56% were because of over-speeding. This followed by sharp turns which was a reason for only 1.3% road crash fatalities.

Poor road condition…

Poor road condition refers to ad-hoc or temporary factors that existed on roads which are not congenial to smooth and safe road traffic and that may lead to a crash. These factors include, poor light condition, weather condition, unguarded civil work, slippery road, light reflection from front and encroachment on road. These factors can further be broken down into, no central verge, hole or pit on road, faulty road design, narrow road and sharp curve.

Road crashes in million-plus cities…

In the year 2020, three 50 million-plus population cities accounted for 58,736 crashes (16 %) of the total crashes and 13,542 deaths (10 %) of total deaths in the country. Among them, Delhi reported the highest number of road crash deaths (1,196), followed by Chennai (872), and Bengaluru (646). However, among all the states, Uttar Pradesh ranked 1st in terms of persons killed in road crashes in the year 2020, followed by Maharashtra.

Vehicle increased 10 times with population…

The human population, which was 62.20 lakhs in 1981 increased to 93.7 lakhs in 1991, 137.8 lakhs in 2001 to 203.4 lakhs (approx.) in 2021. This shows a more than two-fold increase in the population in the last three decades. However, the number of motor vehicles on Delhi roads has increased by approximately 21 times between the years 1981 to 2021, while, the road length has increased only two times, from 15,487 kms to 33,198 kms, during the period. There were over 122.53 lakh registered vehicles of all categories in Delhi in 2021.

Delhi vehicles caused maximum fatal crashes…

As per the data, vehicles registered in Delhi caused 66.3% fatal crashes, maximum in the country in the year 2021, followed by vehicles registered in Haryana, which is 22.5%, and in 5.9% in Uttar Pradesh. This scenario is similar to that of the year 2020. Vehicles registered in Delhi and Haryana alone were involved in the fatal crashes of about 22.5 percent of total fatal crashes in the country.

Most vulnerable time is between 7pm to 2 am…

Crash classification during day and night showed that in 2021, 561 fatal crashes occurred during the day, whereas 645 occurred during the night, keeping in the consideration that lesser vehicles run on roads at night. It is also reported that the number of fatal crashes occurring after 7pm to 2am on all days of week is higher. This is also the time when commercial vehicles are allowed to ply on the roads as the restriction on “No Entry” is released.

Wearing a seat belt reduces fatal crashes by 45-50%…

According to the traffic police, in the case of drink-driving, the risk of a road traffic crash starts at low levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and increases significantly when the driver’s BAC is more than 0.04. Correct helmet use can lead to a 42% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries and a 69% reduction in the risk of head injuries. Wearing a helmet with the BIS mark may help in minimizing the risk of injury in the event of a road crash. Whereas, wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of death among drivers and front seat occupants by 45-50 percent, and the risk of death and serious injuries among rear seat occupants by 25 percent.

Term Accident, replaced with Crash.

The WHO characterizes road deaths as a preventable health epidemic. Dictionary defines the word “accident” as “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.” Unfortunately, this is contradictory to what we know about road crashes. Road crashes are a preventable cause of injury and death, and the causes of road crashes can be identified and prevented. By calling them accidents, we dilute public support for policy solutions to road crashes, such as implementations of drink driving checkpoints, speed cameras, reduced speed limits, helmet clasping laws, and more. Transportation Alternatives launched the ‘Crash Not Accident’ campaign asking people to pledge that they will stop using the word “accident” and replace it with “crash.”